Farm killings surge across SA

In the first six months of the year, 139 attacks and 26 murders have taken place on farms in South Africa.

08 July 2020 | International

KAILENE PILLAY AND LYSE COMINS

DURBAN



A new spate of farm murders has hit South Africa, prompting urgent calls for the government to curb the surge exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest murder involved a pregnant woman who was killed during a home invasion on her farm in Weenen in KwaZulu-Natal.

The incident came one day after Afrikaans singer Wynand Breedt was shot dead on his farm outside Worcester near Cape Town on Friday night.

In the first six months of the year, 139 attacks and 26 murders have taken place on farms in South Africa.

In KZN alone there have been 12 farm attacks and four murders, agricultural union TLU SA said.

They are now appealing to the government to take a stronger stance against farm attacks as it has done with gender-based violence and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Weenen farm attack claimed the life of pregnant Zaahida Shakur, 26, on Saturday night.

According to police, three suspects confronted her husband, Ayoob, 34, in the kitchen and pointed a knife at him, demanding money.

Hearing the commotion, the children ran from the bedroom into the kitchen.

The mother was grabbed by one of the suspects who dragged her into the bathroom where her throat was slit. The children were locked in one of the bedrooms.



Urgent attention

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said nothing was taken from the house and the matter was receiving urgent attention.

The Shakur family is well known for their farming of livestock and for butchery and abattoir services in the area.

TLU SA general manager Bennie van Zyl said the government needed to step up and offer better safety and security to farmers.

“Why don't we have a government with the political will to address the problems of the country? The president always speaks to gender-based violence and Covid-19, but never about farm murders and violence.

“We have a government that is not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to create an environment where the private sector will invest and look after the safety of the country,” Van Zyl said.

Farmers were “very angry” and were saying they now had to defend themselves against attacks without help from the government.

“Why should we just wait to be murdered?” Van Zyl asked.

KZN Farm Union (Kwanalu) chief executive Sandy la Marque said levels of violence experienced in the latest attacks were “highly concerning”.

“We really need government to be very clear with their messaging when it comes to these attacks that are taking place on our food producers. It cannot be tolerated and the level of brutality is unacceptable,” La Marque said.

“The message must be that there is the rule of law, and the rule of law must be applied with clarity and with as much force as we have seen with lots of minor incidents. They are food producers and are employers who are vital to the local economy,” she said.



Brutality

Chris Pappas, Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson on agriculture and rural development in KZN, said the brutality of farm attacks as well as the vulnerability of farming and rural citizens should be a top priority for the government.

“However, in true form they deny, ignore and do not care about the tragedies unfolding in our farming and rural communities,” he said.

“There are two fundamental issues that South Africans must contend with. Why does the president of the country remain silent and continue to deny that farm murders are happening? And why have these attacks or murders not been classified as hate crimes?” asked Pappas.

KZN premier Sihle Zikalala has described farm attacks in the province as part of growing violent crimes that the whole country is grappling with and which need to be dealt with decisively by law-enforcement agencies.

Zikalala has called for law-enforcement agencies to 'work tirelessly' to combat violent crimes in the province, including farm attacks.

“Every life in our country matters and has equal value. This includes the life of farmers, farmworkers, farm dwellers and every citizen of this country.

“Therefore, every murder has to be equally condemned and be dealt with decisively by our law enforcement authorities without any fear or favour,” said Zikalala.



Significant contribution

The premier acknowledged the significant contribution made by the farming community to the economy and well-being of the country.

“Agriculture is a very significant sector in our country when it comes to the creation of job opportunities for our rural communities. Therefore, the role of the farming community cannot be ignored,” said Zikalala.

The province had prioritised the security and protection of farmers, farmworkers and farm dwellers and had called on farming communities to work together with government in its efforts to stem the tide against violent crimes on farms, he said.

“Every community must unite against violent crime and it is the responsibility of all of us to assist our law enforcement agencies to deal with this scourge.

“Equally, the farming community also has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that there is no exploitation of farmworkers and farm dwellers and that they are treated with respect and dignity at all times,” said Zikalala.

The premier said that through community safety and liaison MEC Bheki Ntuli, the province would also conduct an assessment on the progress of all cases of farm attacks. -The Mercury

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